A Reading Revolution at Cole Arts & Science Academy

As we unpack the success of the Colorado READ Act, Colorado Succeeds is taking a deeper look into each of the case studies highlighted in our recent implementation study. The first school we will explore is Cole Arts & Science Academy.

Cole Arts & Science Academy faced a unique set of challenges when it came time to implement the Colorado READ Act. Located near downtown Denver, Cole serves a community where 90% of the students are low-income, 40% of parents are functionally illiterate, and gang activity is pervasive. Overcoming these challenges and making literacy a priority for the entire school called for creative thinking.

Enter Cole’s Principal, Ms. Jennifer Jackson. In response to the bold provisions of the Colorado READ Act, Ms. Jackson used innovative methods to motivate her staff and keep them focused on their mission to achieve 100% literary success. Inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “This is a revolution. There is no retreat in a revolution.” Ms. Jackson purchased t-shirts reading, “Revolutionary” for her team. Ms. Jackson used this phrase to build a shared sense of urgency in the school. She also invested in the development of her leadership team and teachers, ensuring they had the support needed to immediately identify struggling readers and create personalized intervention plans to get them back on track. During this process, Ms. Jackson focused her teachers on consistent monitoring of key performance indicators, which provided the educators a forum for sharing the best practices revealed by the data. After just one year of implementation, the illiteracy rate at Cole was cut in half. English Language Learners and students living in poverty experienced the most impressive growth, with illiteracy rates for both subgroups shrinking by more than 52%. Much of Cole’s success can be attributed to Cole’s highly motivated staff and their use of relevant and accurate data to inform decision making.

The example of Cole’s success proves that progress is a product of combined efforts. While passing legislation is a critical first step, it can only take us so far. For success to be fully realized, it takes committed leaders like Ms. Jackson to make sure that policies like the READ Act are implemented in a meaningful way. Cole Arts & Science Academy sets a shining example of what a reading revolution looks like.

To read more about Cole Academy’s experience implementing the READ Act, check out the full report here.

Jamie Trafficanda

Manager of Communications and Programs
Colorado Succeeds